Time Traveler Tours & Tales’ dramatically new Curriculum Handbook for Beware Madame la Guillotine is nearly here! Developed by theater educator and children’s author, Marcie Colleen, our debut Curriculum Handbook uses Process Drama to bring Revolutionary Paris to life within the classroom walls. It is “interactivity” at its very best. And bound to bring your STEM classroom to a roiling boil!
Process drama does not require a dramatic arts teacher. It does not use familiar theater devices, such as scripts, costumes, actors, and stage crew. Rather, it is a creative instructional method that offers teachers and students the experience of an event, a place, or a time period through facilitated improvisation.
According to theater scholar and educator, Cecily O’Neill, process drama begins with “a task to be undertaken, a decision to be made, or a place to be explored.” Working from this prompt, the teacher and students create an imaginary world and work to address the challenges and opportunities of that world through dramatic interpretation.
There is no written script. The “drama” is not presented on a stage. Nor is there need of an audience. The drama is “set” in a classroom. It might extend over the course of an hour, several days, or even weeks. And it involves all students. The drama unfolds at the hands of these student-actor-researchers as they explore and become part of a particular moment, breakthrough, or event in historical time.
With Marcie’s brilliant complement to Beware Madame la Guillotine the interactive tale (available at Amazon and on the iBookstore), students time travel to the French Revolution and bear witness to it first hand. They walk in the shoes of protagonist, Charlotte Corday. They experience the tremendous social and political upheaval of the time through her eyes. They absorb the ins and outs of this dense historical period in an immersive, play-like way. They take it all in and make sense through their 21st century lens. They make history relevant to today.
Process drama can play a powerful role in any classroom, even in science. But it is particularly well matched to language arts, history, and social studies curricula, especially when teaching literary genre, social concepts, or history far removed from students’ own lives. Through improvised dramas, students experience content personally, providing a deeper connection to the material, thus gaining a higher order understanding of the subject being taught. It all turns on empathy.
Process drama is a complex tool, yes, but one that offers teachers depth and breadth across the curriculum. Marcie’s example stands as an excellent illustration that turns an otherwise dense and potentially tedious historical subject for young people into a luminous and textured tale of scandal and passion, intrigue and treachery.
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For more information on Process Drama, we recommend this article from Kennedy Center's ArtsEdge.